People often ask me to name writers who have influenced or informed my writing. Hands down, that writer is Shakespeare. At last count, I’ve read 2/3 of his plays (all of the tragedies, most of the comedies, and a number of the histories) and all of his sonnets – some of these works multiple times, as I’ve taught many of them. The bard’s words and rhythms infuse my own. On several occasions, I’ve stolen directly from him:
- a title as in A Winter’s Tale
- lines of poetry (“by the pricking of my thumbs/ something wicked this way comes” and “’tis now the witching time of night” which I borrowed for In the Graveyard)
- quoted lines used by characters such as Anise in Gravity Journal, who, as she cuts, cites Lady Macbeth’s famous lament:
What hands are here? Ha! they pluck out mine eyes. Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas incarnadine Making the green one red. (Macbeth, II.ii.56-60)
I am an ardent fan. I marvel at his genius. I’d like to invite him to dinner or for a pint (my treat). But alack, he has “shuffled off this mortal coil” and “the rest is silence.”
You may find this interactive widget from Oxford English Dictionaries a lark!
Or you may find Stephen Marche’s book, How Shakespeare Changed Everything, enlightening (here’s a short overview.)
All jests aside, I do believe that reading Shakespeare makes one a better poet. So often I am astonished by the number of poets who do not read poetry, the number of aspiring authors who do not read prose, the number of people who read neither. Quite simply, as you no doubt know because you are reading this blog, a writer reads. Widely. Often. Across genres.
Today on Shakespeare’s birthday, in this month of poetry, it’s important we remember that poets in many places are revered and have been advocates for freedom, for the people, for social justice. Some have been blacklisted or censored; some have been tortured or murdered. Why is that? Because a poet’s pen has power.
Today I remember these…
Susana Chávez Castillo
San San Nweh
and so many others…
Writing Prompt: Take the lyrics to a popular song and rearrange them into Shakespearean sonnet.
- Rhyme Scheme: ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG
- Each line shoudl be 10 syllables long or 5 feet in length (pentameter)
- The first two quatrains should be a question and then 7 lines of potential answers/reasonings
- The third quatrain should be a twist
- Include a rhyming couplet at the end that summarizes the sonnet as a whole